Is it because he doesn't have the "playground skills" of the other boys? Maybe. Playground skills include:
- running smoothly and changing direction
- competent ball handling
- not being afraid of getting hit (especially in the face)
- be willing to be rough
- falling down without crying
- having stamina (not getting tired easily)
- being a team member
- knowing "how" games are played
- having strategies and being able to develop them "on the run"
These skills are the "currency" of many elementary school boys. If Matthew doesn't have them, there are no video games to retreat to at recess. Uh oh.
Maybe Matthew isn't a "runner". Maybe he shies away from the aggressive play of other boys. It's just not his "thing". It's not every boy's idea of having fun, but the other boys don't understand these nuances. Your guy is different. So, what now?
Check out the animals. Most hang out with others of their species. Very few mammals are solitary. Yeah, there are the sharks, but that's another story for another day. Most mammals know that being in a herd gives them a better chance of survival. If you're alone, you get picked off. We'll all seen the shows.
First, call the friend's mother. We'll call the friend "Sam". Find out a bit about Sam's interests and tell mother that the date should be "about 2 hours" to get them acquainted.
Tell Matthew what you've learned from Sam's mom and ask him what he'd like to do. Focus on the concept (and draw it out on paper, PLEASE!!! using stick figures) of deferring to guests so that they feel welcome. Relate the concepts to something that Matthew knows about such as a vacation. "It should be like a tiny vacation for your friends when they come over". Everything should be fun. Now, Matthew is not to usurp his own wishes, but it's important to treat guests special. Compromise is key.
Practicing "good host" behaviors and labeling them as such can be a code word to generalize these skills to other situations, for example, when he is out in public with you. If you have to remind Matthew (or Mary) about being a "good host", chances are Sam will have heard this, too, and he'll comply.
If Matthew struggles with regaining control, step in and suggest making snacks or introduce a project. Distract them. Be prepared with a "bag of tricks".
Have something for Sam to take home as a reminder of the good time they had playing together. This is called a "transition object" and once Sam gets home, he'll keep Matthew in mind. Consider scheduling the play date on Sunday so that Monday, the event is still fresh.
After Sam leaves, give Matthew a bit of time to relax and then briefly review the areas that need practice and the ones where he was really "spot on".
Have another play date or two and then, arrange for an outing such as the movies, an aquarium or a museum. Follow the same guidelines for each meeting.
Tell Matthew's teacher about the play dates and ask how the relationship is developing. Avoid asking for too many details because teachers are not supposed to be talking about other students to adults who aren't their parents.
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